A wander for our troubling times
There are many public parks with walkways within communities such as Madras, Culver, Crooked River Ranch and Camp Sherman that are great for getting out and exercising in the fresh air during the virus pandemic. These walking paths usually allow for the 6-foot spacing that is recommended.
As time goes on, I imagine local walkways are starting to become more and more crowded. With everyone getting a little of the stir crazies, you might consider one of the "Wanders" from my recent hiking book, "Hiking Historic Jefferson County, Oregon." The Wanders are all non-trail hikes up several of our many county buttes. As you find your way up the buttes, there is little chance you will run into anyone else.
Fresh air and exercise are just what we all need in these trying times. Of course, if we are soon directed by our leaders that we must "shelter in place", I'm guessing driving any distance for a nonessential purpose will be not allowed. Until then, here is an isolated wander, close to Madras. Future issues of the Pioneer may offer other wanders and even some historic day drives. Stay safe and enjoy!
Overview: This is a great wander when you are looking for a close-by, easily accessible Madras area hike. You will almost never encounter another soul as you wander here.
Take a sack lunch, a bottle of wine and a good friend. There are many nice warm rocks at the gently rounded summit to sit and enjoy the spectacular views of the Cascades and Jefferson County. The hike is a mild steady climb with the last 150 feet to the summit being somewhat steep. From the summit, Wagonblast Canyon is to the southeast.
This canyon was named after an early settler's last name, not due to a wagon load of dynamite blowing up. Gray Butte, Juniper Butte and Haystack Butte are to the south. Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood line the westward Cascade Mountains' skyline. To the northwest are the Mutton Mountains on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The flat-top Teller Buttes are to the northeast, and the Baldwin Hills (named after the famous sheep ranch whose sheep roamed over thousands of the surrounding acres) are to the east. Both of the Teller Buttes and also the Baldwin Hills are private property.
To the south of the parking area rises the hike's objective, Buck Butte (elev. 3,177 ft.). To start, cross the barbed wire fence, hiking south roughly along gentle ridge tops leading toward Buck Butte, about a mile away. Halfway there, cross over a dirt road. Near the final one-quarter mile to the top of Buck Butte, there is a second dirt road (this will be your optional return route). Follow it to the summit, where you can sunbathe, enjoy the views and watch eagles and hawks soar above you.
Most likely, you will have the summit to yourselves. Explore and try to find the two 4-inch circular medallions embedded in the rock labeled US Coast and Geodetic Survey Triangulation Station. One medallion is dated 1943, the other 1971. Cell service is excellent at the summit. Sunsets, smoke from forest fires, wildflowers, birds, deer and snow-covered vistas are all extras that you may find in the ever-changing views from this summit.
Having filled your senses with the beauty of our county and settled the problems of the world with your hiking partners, follow the dirt road back down to the saddle between the main and smaller summit. Walk a few hundred yards southward down between the summits and explore the unique rock outcropping.
The beautiful lichen-covered rock formations, complete with two small caves, are fun to explore. You can almost envision the stranded cowpokes holed up here during a sudden storm.
Return to the dirt road and follow it northward about a mile to East Ashwood Road. The return hike is not as scenic as the summit hike, as you will be following a canyon bottom road back. Observe the numbers of young junipers that are growing in the hills around you. You are in one of the largest juniper forests in the world.
Pictures from the early 1900s show these hills were once covered with grasses, excellent forage for sheep, cattle and horses. Unfortunately, overgrazing, poor farming techniques and droughts ruined the grasslands, giving juniper and cheatgrasses a chance to take over. Juniper trees and cheatgrass suck much of the water from the soil. Where once ran a few small spring-fed creeks, there now exists bone dry canyons.
On the way back, at any junction, veer to the left, staying on the larger dirt road. The road dead ends at a gate on East Ashwood Road. Turn left (westward) and follow the road uphill for one-quarter of a mile back to your vehicle.
Driving Directions from Madras to the Trailhead: From Highway 97, take B Street (which becomes East Ashwood Road) 4.6 miles west, passing the entrance to the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution. The pavement ends at the turnoff to the prison. Travel 0.8 miles farther up a grade to a crest in the road. Park in the turnout on the right.
Difficulty: An easy 3.2-mile loop hike with 470 feet of elevation gain from the parking area to summit. The last 150 feet or so is a steep climb, but hardly worth mentioning.
Driving mileage to the trailhead: 4.6 miles from the stoplight in Madras to the trailhead pullout.
Road Conditions: Paved except for the last 0.8 miles of a good gravel county road.
Stan Pine lived in Madras for 32 years, raising three children while working as a teacher and administrator for School District 509-J, the Jefferson County Education Service District and the Black Butte School District. He also was a member of the Kiwanis Club, serving one of those years as club president. During that time, he became an avid collector of bits and pieces of Jefferson County history and area hikes. These have been published in his recent book, "Hiking Historical Jefferson County, Oregon." He and his wife, Martha, now live in Astoria, Oregon.
About the hiker:
Stan lived in Madras for thirty-two years raising three children while working as a teacher and administrator for School District 509-J, the Jefferson County Education Service District and the Black Butte School Districts. He also was a member of the Kiwanis Club serving one of those years as Club President.
During that time he became an avid collector of bit and pieces of Jefferson County history and area hikes. These have been published in his recent book, Hiking Historical Jefferson County. He and his wife Martha now live in Astoria, Oregon.
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